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A Fishful of Dollars

July 10, 2012

Original airdate: April 27, 1999

Written by Patrick Verrone; Directed by Gregg Vanzo and Ron Hughart

This show is all about the fantastic characters and ridiculous humour and “A Fishful of Dollars” continues this in spades. This has always been one of my favourites and it’s probably one of the show’s more well-known episodes. It’s such a simple concept for a time-travel/future-based series: what would happen if Fry checks his thousand-year old bank account? He’d be rich, that’s what. It’s a great little stand-alone episode, allowing Fry to have the riches he, and everyone else, has always dreamt of, whilst also dealing with the theme of Fry’s continued adaption to the future, and pining for aspects of his old life. Let’s get jump in…*

Fry is shocked to learn that, in the future, commercials are directly beamed into your dreams (via everyone’s favourite harmless substance: gamma radiation). And the natural reaction to such blatant attempted brainwashing is of course to quickly dash to the mall to buy the advertised brand-name merchandise at low, low prices. Fry attempts to buy what was shown in his dream – a pair of Lightspeed Briefs – but the low, low price of $30 is too high for him. Fry’s money woes are pushed aside for a second as Bender is arrested for shop-lifting a plethora of items, including numerous cans of Mom’s Old-Fashioned Robot Oil (it’s made with 10% more love than the next leading brand). Fry, Amy and Leela are 50 cents short of paying off Bender’s fine, but Fry spots his old bank and decides to check if his account is still open. His balance of 93 cents more than covers the fine, but with interest this has risen to $4.3 billion.

Fry initially enjoys his new found riches with his friends, with parties, spa treatments and the destruction of priceless artworks. But his riches can’t buy him everything: namely, his favourite pizza topping, anchovies. Yes, anchovies have been extinct for years, consumed by the Decapodians soon after their arrival on Earth (“I’m not on trial here!”). But Fry is forgetting just how rich he is – he can buy all the things he misses from the 20th Century. After buying an apartment, complete with asbestos, he begins his descent into madness by buying every lot from an auction of historical 20th Century artefacts. The prize lot is one final can of Angry Norwegian anchovies. It’s the only lot which he faces difficulty buying as Mom herself enters into a bidding war, nut Fry wins it for a cool $50 million.

Mom believes he knows the anchovies’ secret: their oil will permanently eliminate robots’ squeaking and put Mom out of business. Yes, this is the first appearance of Mom, the world’s richest, most powerful and yet also most huggable person. In many ways she’s Futurama‘s Mr. Burns, but her fake ‘nice old lady’ public persona adds a great extra dimension and humour avenue. Mom will stop at nothing to get the anchovies and plots to bankrupt Fry, so he’s forced to sell them to her. Meanwhile, a now reclusive and even more unkempt Fry sits at home in the dark watching episodes of Stanford and Son, shunning his friends in favour of his 20th Century junk.

Mum charges her sons Walt, Larry and Igner with obtaining Fry’s pin number – the price of a cheese pizza and a large soda at Panucci’s Pizza. They drug him and stage a farcical recreation of 2000 to convince Fry his life in the future was all a dream. With the help of Pamela Anderson they are able to trick Fry into revealing the price and thus his pin (though it doesn’t take much) and steal all of his money. They dump an unconscious Fry who, in a great dream sequence, realizes that he prefers being in the future and Leela and Bender are more important to him than his money. But he still has the anchovies. Mom turns up to finish her plan by buying the anchovies, but Fry refuses. However, Mom was massively overestimating him all along, because all Fry wants to do is eat the anchovies, sharing the pizza topping he loves with the friends he likes. (“Dumbass!”) But of course, they all hate them, except for Zoidberg, who likes, well, a little too much…

All in all, a classic piece of stand-alone Futurama, focusing on an all-too-human Fry. It takes the standard premise that money can’t buy happiness, without it being in-your-face, and adds some brilliant jokes, with a fantastic plot that ties together so well.

*This is what happens when you change “Let’s get to it” to “Let’s jump in”, at 2AM. But I kinda like it.

Trivia and Quotes

  • Commercial parodies are one of the things this show is absolutely gold standard at. The writers nail their soulless demographic targeting to a tee. The Lightspeed Briefs ad is a fantastic example of this, designed to ensnare that giant market of insecure male idiots. “Comfort and style for the discriminating crotch.”
  • “Didn’t you have ads in the 20th Century?/Well, sure, but not in our dreams. Only on TV and radio and in magazines and movies, and at ball games, on buses, milk cartons and t-shirts and bananas and written on the sky. But not in dreams! No siree.”
  • The demo pair, “Objects in mirror are less attractive than they appear”
  • “Do you take Visa?/Visa hasn’t existed for 500 years/American Express?/600 years/Discover Card?/Sorry we don’t take Discover.”
  • “Being poor sucks. What kind of world is this where they advertise things not everybody can afford?”
  • “Mom, love and screen door and registered trademarks of Mom Corp.”
  • “I’d love to chip but Bender stole my wallet.”
  • Surely inflation…? wouldn’t they have closed the…? Meh, this is too good to pick holes.
  • Fry’s three-stage reaction to his riches is perfect: hyperventilation, salivation and collapse.
  • “I know Fry’s rich, but do we really have to wear these top hats?/Maybe you don’t understand just how rich he is. In fact, I think I better put on a monocle.”
  • First appearance of Scruffy – albeit nameless, lineless and in the background
  • “Hey, get a load of this pathetic 20th Century TV/What’s wrong with it?/Well, aside from causing eye cancer, these things had a lousy low-definition picture/That’s true, on a TV like this I bet you couldn’t even make out my obscene tattoo.”
  • “I just don’t get it, who was this Ted Danson? And why would you pay $10,000 for his skeleton?/I have an idea for a sitcom.”
  • “1 jillion dollars!/[gasps]/Sir, that’s not a number/[gasps]”
  • “Sold, to the gentleman who bought every item in today’s auction./[Boo!]”
  • When they were getting pizza, Fry told everyone to keep the tab under $50 million dollars, he later spend $50 million on the anchovies.
  • “Do you remember a time when chocolate chip cookies came fresh from the oven? Petridge Farm remembers./Ah, those were the days./Do you remember a time when women couldn’t vote, and certain folk weren’t allowed on golf courses. Petridge Farm remembers.” This is a candidate for my favourite and most quoted joke in the history of the show.
  • “You can’t just sit here in the dark listening to classical music./I could if you hadn’t turned on the lights and shut off the stereo.”
  • “I’m not sure you understand this, but I finally found what I need to be happy, and it’s not friends, it’s things./I’m a thing.”
  • Mom’s plan seems massively convoluted. Why doesn’t she just steal the anchovies from Fry? Or have him killed? So much for not picking holes…
  • Mom’s Old Fashioned Video Surveillance Unit
  • “Now I’m off to some charity BS for knocked up teenage sluts.” – I love Mom.
  • The Panucci’s Pizza recreation is fantastically pathetic: Walt explicitly states Fry’s “dream” was about being in the year 3000, the moustache, the obvious script and set, the Nixon’s the One poster, “Hey look, anchovies!/Of course, they’re not extinct yet and if you need further proof that this is really a thousand years ago, well here’s contemporary actress Pamela Anderson,” and Pamela’s “body” clapping at her own entrance, and so forth.
  • “$10.77, the same as my pin number”
  • Continuing already expired technology, Fry’s stuff is all repossessed because his cheque bounced. No instant payment in the future.
  • “Your Fry’s relative, do you have any idea how he got so crazy?/Uhwah, oh yeah, they say madness runs in our family. Some even call me mad, and why? Because I dared to dream of my own race of atomic monsters, atomic supermen with octagonal bodies, that sucked blood out the…” – Yeah, the Professor’s my favourite character, and I’m glad his dream eventually came true.
  • “You might as well put that cheque book away, because I’ve discovered something even more important: my friends. And they aren’t worth even a penny to me.”
  • “Okay my friends, get ready for the most delicious extinct animal you’ve ever tasted./I don’t know, I’ve had cow.”
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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Frostillicus permalink
    July 17, 2012 4:59 am

    Excellent review of a truly cromulent episode! I need to get caught up on these, but for now, I’m off to listen to stuffy old songs about the buttocks!

  2. July 17, 2012 5:52 am

    Probably my favorite season 1 episode. I just love the idea of Fry’s desperate attempt to recreate his past, like a shell-shocked man a thousand years out of his time could be inclined to do. I like how he gets himself well adapted to the future rather quickly into the series, but I kind of wish they’d done more stories focused on Fry’s culture shock, and connections back to his past.

    I second your recommendation of the Pepperidge Farm joke. I’d quote that with my friend all the freaking time.

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